October afternoons don’t get much better than this. It started with a brisk walk into East Harlem, which is also known as Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio. Winding along a trail of De La Vega sidewalk art, I arrived at La Marqueta, an outdoor market at 116th Street and Park Avenue. I came for pig.
The owners of the Urban Garden Center are behind what has evolved into Flea Marqueta, following in the foodsteps of Brooklyn Flea’s Smorgasburg. It’s got a long way to go, but, like everything else in Harlem, they are following their own path. In addition to the food, there are plenty of plants and such along with a few tables selling odds and ends.
The swine-a-thon started back on Sept. 15th. And every second Sunday since then, they have been roasting a pig to celebrate El Boar-rio. Festivities began at noon, but I wander in around 1:30 PM. My timing proved perfect, as I had a chance to grab a cup of coffee from a food truck and snack on some fried chicken from the Southern Comfort caterers.
Shortly after 2:00 PM, the pig was ready. And being El Barrio, the pork came at me in flour tortillas. For a mere $10, I got a pulled pork taco, a chorizo taco, corn on the cob, and coleslaw. For an additional $4, I enjoyed a delicious Sugar Hill Golden Ale from the Harlem Brewing Company.
For dessert, I snagged a bunch of Mr. Cory’s Cookies, made with all natural ingredients by a cool little kid. If you do nothing else today, donate a little something to this micro entrepreneur so he can get his cookies closer to your mouth.
All of this was accompanied by a blues duet, Blue Maky, from Bogata, Colombia. The two dudes, one on guitar and the other on bass, added that magical touch. I didn’t feel like I was at a public event. No, it seemed more like a gathering in a neighbor’s backyard. If there’s one thing they know how to do in El Barrio, it is creating a sense of community.
The final El Boarrio will be held on Sunday, Oct. 27th. That’s also the day of the annual East Harlem Festival, which runs from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.